State Watch

Parkland generation set to make impact in midterms

Hundreds of thousands of students took part in walkouts and public protests in the wake of the mass shooting at a high school in Parkland, Fla., in February. Come November, those students and millions of their peers will make their first significant foray into electoral politics.
 
About 17 million members of Generation Z — those born after 1997 — will be eligible to vote by November, according to new population estimates released this week by the Census Bureau.
 
Their numbers equal about a quarter of the size of the millennial generation, those who are between the ages of 21 and 36, according to William Frey, a demographer at the Brookings Institution who analyzed the census data.
 
While younger voters turn out to vote at disproportionately low numbers compared to older cohorts, this year marks the youngest generation’s first opportunity to have an impact. 
 
Most public surveys test voters who are over the age of 18, so the youngest generation’s political views are difficult to ascertain. But if older generations are any guide, this generation is likely to be more liberal than the oldest voters.
 
Surveys conducted by the Pew Research Center have found members of the silent generation, those born too late to serve in World War II but before the post-war baby boomers, are far more likely to describe themselves as conservative than as liberal; 39 percent of those voters call themselves conservative, and just 28 percent say they are liberal.
 
About a third of boomers describe themselves as conservative, compared to 39 percent who say they hold mostly or consistently liberal views. About a quarter of Generation X describes itself as conservative, while 43 percent say they are mostly liberal.
 
Among millennials, just 12 percent call themselves conservative, and a whopping 57 percent say their views are liberal. Millennials favor the Democratic Party by a 59 percent to 32 percent margin over Republicans, a much larger advantage than any other generation; only the silent generation tends to favor Republicans, by a 52 percent to 43 percent edge.
 
While millennials are only now finding their voice and voting power, the new Census Bureau estimates show Generation Z will eventually have a much larger impact. There are 86 million members of Generation Z, those under 20 years old, compared with about 72 million millennials, Frey said.
 
Millennials, naturally, are getting older. A little more than a third of millennials are over the age of 30, Frey said. The older a voter is, the more likely they are to vote. When the next round of Census estimates come out next year, an estimated 42 percent of millennials will be over the age of 30.
 
The millennial generation is about the same size as the baby boom generation, according to Cheryl Russell, a demographer and editorial director at New Strategist Press. Using slightly different age definitions, Russell found 73 million baby boomers, aged between 53 and 71, and 79 million millennials, aged 23 to 40.
 
But that balance is shifting. As the baby boom generation ages, their numbers are declining; between 2010 and 2017, almost 4 million baby boomers died, Russell found, accounting for a 5 percent decline in their overall population. At the same time, millennials grew by 2.8 million, thanks to immigrants coming into the country.
 
Not surprisingly, the oldest generations are declining most significantly. Since 2010, the World War II generation, those over the age of 85, declined by more than half. There are now more Americans between birth and 7 years old, 32 million, than there are over the age of 72, 28 million, according to Russell’s calculations.
 
The Census Bureau estimates the American population by their specific ages each year. In 2017, there were more Americans who were 26 years of age, about 4.79 million, than any other specific age. As an indication of the growing share of millennials as part of the population, eight of the ten most common ages fall within the millennial generation. The other two, those who are aged 57 and 56, are square in the heart of the baby boomer generation.
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